This Orwellian outcome to Hawley’s plan is the primary reason it is opposed by NetChoice, a trade association representing Facebook, Google, and Twitter. “Sen. Hawley’s proposals would place the entirety of FTC authority under the control of a single director, giving that person the sole power to dictate the future of American business,” vice president Carl Szabo said in a statement. (emphasis mine)
“Rather than protecting the agency from regulatory capture, Sen. Hawley’s proposals would make political abuse more likely — right when concerns are growing over politically motivated antitrust actions,” NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement.
— “Having two federal agencies in charge of enforcing antitrust law makes as much sense as having two popes,” Lee told MT in an emailed statement. “This is an issue we’ve had hearings on in the Judiciary Committee and I think Sen. Hawley has identified a productive and constitutionally sound way forward.” (Hawley’s proposal swiftly drew pushback from one industry group, NetChoice, which said it “would make political abuse more likely.”)
State attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) are trying desperately to validate their hunch that Google is engaging in anti-competitive practices. Like a car mechanic searching for a non-serious problem he can charge you for fixing, these law enforcement agencies now have to justify their rhetoric in starting a major crusade against one of America’s world-leading tech firms.
Steve DelBianco, CEO of NetChoice, said that Warren’s fellow Democratic Party presidential candidates weren’t really concerned about the corporate power of Silicon Valley. Rather, he said, the issues they raised at the October presidential debate were election interference, disinformation, privacy and the censorship of controversial conservative speech.
“None of the concerns they raised have a single thing to do with antitrust,” said DelBianco, whose group was active in opposing the antitrust case against Microsoft in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Steve DelBianco, president/CEO of NetChoice, warned that antitrust actions could affect innovation, since small companies often build strategies with expectations of being acquired by a major provider, such as the platform companies.
DelBianco also predicted that by 2030, “Government will still be trying to figure out how to regulate artificial intelligence,” which will continue to be a major initiative of all the platform providers.
“You can’t just ignore facts that don’t prove your presupposed conclusions. That’s not how ‘investigations’ work,” says Carl Szabo. “Especially from the Judiciary Committee? We should be better than that.”
On a warm Friday in October, sun streamed in the window of Szabo’s K Street offices, decorated with thick books on telecommunications law, a LEGO R2-D2 and framed mock patent applications of heavy machinery from the “Star Wars” universe. Szabo is the outspoken vice president and top lawyer for Silicon Valley’s most aggressivelobbying presence in Washington: a group called NetChoice, which counts Facebook and Google among its members.
Szabo’s job is to say what the tech companies don’t want to be seen saying themselves, which, in this case, is that Cicilline is unfairly targeting them. That he isn’t after going after bad corporate behavior but simply taking scalps from some of the highest profile companies in the world. That, despite his declarations that he is keeping an open mind, the result of his investigation is a foregone conclusion. Cicilline, the argument goes, is convinced there’s no competition left in the tech industry. Says Szabo, ever heard of TikTok?
Cicilline’s investigation won’t add up to much of anything, Szabo insists, because there’s no there there. The worry, though, is that he adds his powerful voice to the “cacophony of people complaining about technology”—many of whom, Szabo argues, are motivated, somewhat perversely, by the desire to get their name in headlines smack up against mentions of Facebook, Google and the rest. “I think the whole reason we’re even talking about these groups is because of SEO,” or search engine optimization, Szabo said.
But Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of industry group NetChoice, which typically doesn’t support antitrust actions against large tech companies, sees the continued interest in antitrust as more of a political tool, saying that once someone pulls back the layers of an argument for breaking up big tech companies, there’s nothing substantial there.
“Once you take more than a knee-jerk analysis of the digital landscape, you realize that there are a lot of competitors out there, that choice is robust and there is no consumer harm,” he said.
Carl Szabo, vice president of NetChoice, a trade association whose members include Google and Facebook, panned the bill as a “special handout” to the news industry and argued that the legislation, despite its intent, could still leave smaller newspapers “out in the cold.”
“What’s concerning about legislation like this is it’s pretty much designed to empower large newspaper conglomerates to circumvent existing anti-trust law,” Szabo tells National Review. “Today, businesses regardless of what industry they’re in are subject to the same rules when it comes to concerns about size and anti-trust. This [bill] is giving a special handout to the news industry, and it’s hard to argue that Rupert Murdoch needs yet another handout.”
Although the 500-word bill states that the negotiations that news companies engage in with Google and Facebook must “pertain to terms that would be available to all news content creators,” Szabo suggested it could still benefit big papers over small ones: “Let’s presume I’m an online company [such as Google or Facebook], and I have to cut this nice sweetheart deal because the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the LA Times have decided to get together and hard bargain negotiated rates. Let’s say the Kansas City Tribune [sic] wants to enjoy that. The online service provider might say, ‘Look, I won’t carry your content because it’s just not going to be worth it to me.’”